Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, 1927-2013

The death has been announced of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, who died today at her Manhattan home at the age of 85.

I have to admit that Jhabvala was a name I had never heard of for the longest time. It wasn't until September 2011, when TCM had a salute to the 50th anniversary of Merchant Ivory Productions, in fact, that I first learned of her name. Jhabvala was the screenwriter for many of the films produced by Ismail Merchant and directed by James Ivory, a collaboration among the three of them which lasted close to 40 years. In fact, Jhabvala wrote the novel which became the basis for the first Merchant Ivory picture, The Householder. Jhabvala would go on to win a pair of Oscars for her screenwriting, both for Merchant Ivory pictures: A Room With a View, and Howards End.

Screenwriting is an important part of moviemaking, and yet I don't think it generally gets the attention it deserves. People probably remember Merchant Ivory pictures, but how many of them would have been able to name the screenwriter?

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